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Devolved Administrations

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is with regard to (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department giving

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evidence to (i) Scottish Parliament, (ii) Welsh Assembly and (iii) Northern Ireland Assembly Committees; and to what categories of document he gives (A) full access, (B) restricted access and (C) no access to (w) Scottish Parliament, (x) Welsh Assembly, (y) Northern Ireland Assembly and (z) House of Commons select committees. [7009]

Mr. Blunkett: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by the Minister of State, Cabinet Office on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 1003–05W.

Labour Shortages

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to fast-track asylum or immigration applicants who are skilled in the area of trades where the UK has labour shortages. [8562]

Angela Eagle: The Home Secretary has announced further plans for controlled channels of entry to help meet skill needs in the United Kingdom economy. These will provide a legal route for those who can earn their living and contribute to the United Kingdom. But these proposals must be seen as separate from asylum. There are no plans to allow any asylum seeker who has made his way to this country to take up any form of employment other than the existing concessionary arrangements for adult asylum seekers where their application has been outstanding for longer than six months without a decision being made on it.


Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much financial assistance was given by his Department to Crimestoppers for the financial years (a) 2000–01 and (b) 2001–02; how much he proposes to grant for the 2002–03 financial year. [8302]

Mr. Denham: In 2000–01 the Home Office made a grant of £90,000 to Crimestoppers for their administration costs and provided £40,000 to fund an evaluation of the effectiveness of their work. We are currently considering the question of Home Office assistance to Crimestoppers now and in the future.



Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of mothers (a) in the Stretley/Broxtowe surestart area and (b) in the UK breastfeed their babies. [7303]

Jacqui Smith: Data collected by the Stretley/Broxtowe sure start programme from local midwifery and health visiting records show that in 1999, 22 per cent. of mothers in Stretley/Broxtowe sure start area breastfed at birth, 10 per cent. at six weeks and four per cent. at four months.

Preliminary results from the first stage of the 2000 infant feeding survey show an increase in the number of mothers in the United Kingdom who initiate breastfeeding. The overall breastfeeding rates rose from 66 per cent. in 1995 to 69 per cent. in 2000. The incidence of breastfeeding in England and Wales increased from 68 per cent. in 1995 to 70 per cent. in 2000. In Scotland

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and Northern Ireland the rate increased from 55 per cent. in 1995 to 63 per cent. in 2000, and 45 per cent. in 1995 to 54 per cent. in 2000 respectively. The increase has been particularly marked in low income households in England, where breastfeeding rates increased from 50 per cent. to 62 per cent. of women between 1995 and 2000.

Digital Hearing Aids

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the dissemination of digital hearing aids by the NHS in the last three years; and if he will make a statement on his plans for future dissemination of hearing aids. [7396]

Jacqui Smith: Twenty National Health Service trusts in England have been fitting digital hearing aids for NHS patients since October 2000, as part of the Department's "modernising NHS hearing aid services" project. The project also includes increased investment in information technology, equipment and modernised patient processes. The Institute of Hearing Research is evaluating the project and its findings will help determine how changes in hearing aid services might be extended to all NHS audiology departments.

In the meantime all NHS trusts with the staff, training, equipment and experience necessary to fit digital hearing aids, are able to apply for access to the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency contract for digital hearing aids. Twenty five trusts have been given access to the contract allowing them to fit digital aids for patients outside the project.

Waiting Times

Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what target he has set for waiting times for in-patient treatment in West Surrey. [7702]

Ms Blears: The NHS Plan (published in July 2000) set a national target for waiting times. By March 2002, no one should wait longer than 15 months for in-patient treatment.

West Surrey health authority have submitted performance improvement plans which set the following targets for West Surrey:

By March 2002 there should be no more than 697 people waiting longer than 12 months for in-patient treatment and by September 2002 there should be no more than 357 people waiting longer than 12 months.

These plans have been approved by the national health service south east regional office who will be monitoring progress closely.

Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of patients waiting for in-patient treatment in West Surrey have been waiting for more than one year; in which health authorities the percentage is highest; which health authority has the largest percentage waiting more than one year; which health authorities have no one waiting more than one year; and what steps he has taken to reduce variations in patients waiting over one year in the NHS. [7701]

Ms Blears: At the end of August 2001, 10.9 per cent. of patients in the West Surrey health authority area had waited over 12 months for in-patient treatment. This is the highest

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percentage in England. The health authority area with the lowest percentage is Dorset with 0.1 per cent. There are no health authorities in England without patients waiting over 12 months.

The NHS Plan contains a target to reduce the maximum waiting time to six months for in-patient treatment and three months for out-patient appointments by 2005. The Modernisation Agency and Department of Health's regional offices are working with the national health service significantly to improve access to care and to reduce variations in waiting times in the areas with the longest waits. West Surrey health authority has also developed action plans to bring about improvements locally.

Hospices (Funding)

Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the percentage is of revenue costs financed by public funds at the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, Farnham. [7558]

Ms Blears: I understand that 17.2 per cent. of the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice's revenue costs are financed by West Surrey health authority. We are committed to tackling inequalities in access to specialist palliative care services for patients. The Cancer Plan set out our intention to support this by investing an additional £50 million in specialist palliative care by 2004. This will mean that for the first time the national health service investment in specialist palliative care services will match that of the voluntary sector.

We have required all cancer networks to develop costed strategic investment plans for palliative care, which will inform the wider NHS planning process through health improvement programmes and service and financial frameworks for 2002–03. This will be the mechanism by which we will see inequalities in palliative care service provision addressed and also more realistic support for voluntary hospices.

Reciprocal Health Agreements

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health in each of the last five years, what was the net cost to the United Kingdom of reciprocal health agreements with each non-EU country with which a reciprocal agreement is in force. [7216]

Ms Blears [holding answer 15 October 2001]: The United Kingdom's bilateral reciprocal health agreements generally cover only immediately necessary treatment for temporary visitors. They have been negotiated on a cost waiver basis, with each of the parties to the agreement bearing the cost of treating the others' people. Net cost information is therefore not available.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients have been treated in overseas hospitals, funded by the NHS, in each of the last five years. [7218]

Ms Blears [holding answer 15 October 2001]: United Kingdom residents are personally liable for costs of hospital and other medical treatment overseas unless there are reciprocal health agreements under which costs

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are assumed by Governments. Since many of these agreements are on a cost waiver basis information on numbers of patients treated in overseas hospitals is not available.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health in each of the last five years, what has been the net cost to the United Kingdom of reciprocal health agreements with each EU country. [7217]

Ms Blears [holding answer 15 October 2001]: Regulation (EEC) 1408/71 is the European Commission legislation which co-ordinates the health care systems of

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the member states. It provides for health care to be given at the expense of the patient's home country, in a wide range of circumstances, including immediately necessary health care for temporary visitors, patients referred specifically for treatment, treatment for state pensioners who have retired to another member state, and for posted workers.

Member states pay each other for such treatments. The table gives the net cost to the United Kingdom (on a resource accounting basis). The figures reflect the fact that with many member states there are more UK pensioners and tourists going to other member states than vice versa.

Estimated net costs to the United Kingdom of reciprocal health arrangements with EU countries during 1996 to 2000

£ sterling


1. Figures are based on latest available information and used for Resource Accounting and Budgeting purposes.

2. Claims against the UK are made in national currency and converted into sterling by using the quarterly mean exchange rates published by the EU commission.

3. Figures are rounded to the nearest thousand.

4. A minus sign indicated that the UK is an overall creditor.

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